by Chris Weikel
directed by Mark Finley
Moe Bertran, Tim Dietrich, Jesse May and Patrick Porter
Johnny and Dave have been casually dating until one night Dave turns into a pig—literally. Does this mean it’s all over?
Johnny doesn’t know how it happened or even why, but thinks it may have to do with a neighbor, Mama Truth, whom he had an argument with. Johnny thinks Mamma Truth put a hex on them. Johnny confides in his best friend, Kyle, who went to graduate school studying fairy tales. Kyle brings Mama Truth, a tranny, over to Johnny’s apartment so she can change Dave back, but nothing happens. Mama Truth says that she had nothing to do with it but tells them a Romanian folk tale about an enchanted pig. Johnny is now stuck with Dave in the pig form. They figure out a way to communicate (one snort means no, two snorts mean yes). The situation actually makes them grow much closer and they learn things about each other. Throughout the course of the play, Kyle does research to try to find a way to turn Dave back into a human. Johnny is encouraged by Dave to start drawing again. Eventually Johnny is the one who really goes through the most changes in the story and there is a “happily ever after” in store for the characters.
I really enjoyed Pig Tale a lot. It is a very smart, witty, and funny play. I found myself laughing through most of the show. Chris Weikel wrote a really sweet and honest play. His characters are fully developed and engaging. The story is also refreshing and it doesn’t fall into the clichés that gay-themed often do. Mark Finley has done a stellar job directing this piece. The staging feels very organic. I also thought that the set was really great. Ray Klausen has a great eye for detail—for example, Johnny has lived in this apartment for about eight years and in some places the wallpaper is distressed or peeling and that really helps set the environment.
The cast does an amazing job. Patrick Porter is terrific as Johnny, our conflicted protagonist. Porter brings a real honesty to the role and it was nice to see his character develop and mature during the course of the play. Jesse May is amazing as Dave. His transformation from man to pig is very well done. May has a really nice endearing quality about him. May also is able to convey everything he is feeling through changes in his eyes and facial expressions, which was really great. Porter and May have great chemistry which makes their relationship very believable. Tim Dietrich is hysterical as Kyle, Johnny’s marijuana-friendly best friend. Moe Bertran is extremely entertaining in his many parts, but Mama Truth was my favorite. The cast works really nicely together and help make the outcome really truthful.
Pig Tale is a really fun and endearing play. The characters are very relatable and the story touches upon a lot of the struggles that people in relationships go through. It is definitely worth the trip to the Wings Theater to see. I look forward to Wiekel’s and Finley’s future endeavors together. — Roger Nasser, nytheater.com
Let’s face it: Men are pigs — and frankly, some of us have dated more than our fair share of oinkers. But none of us has been as bad off as poor Johnny Lovejoy when his long-term trick, Dave, transforms into an honest-to-goodness pig in Chris Weikel’s charming queer confection Pig Tale: An Urban Faerie Story. Whether it’s the snout or Dave’s unseemly habit of rooting through the garbage, one fact is clear: The boy is swine.
Commitment-phobic yuppie Johnny (Patrick Porter) gets more than he bargained for when his relationship-ready not-quite-boyfriend Dave (Jesse May) magically turns into a pig after a quick roll in the hay. Enlisting the help of his slacker friend Kyle (Tim Dietrich), who, surprisingly, holds a master’s in comparative folklore, Johnny sets out to change Dave back into his hotty human self before Animal Control can break up their blossoming relationship.
With witty banter, Weikel turns the notion of happily ever after on its well-worn head, injecting camp and fetish gags (furries, anyone?) into Pig Tale’s fractured fairy-tale format. And though he’s a bit heavy-handed with the schmaltz, Weikel creates an engaging metaphor for modern relationships as Dave transforms from sexual object into human romantic partner. That said, Pig Tale stumbles structurally — scenes have an unsatisfying habit of petering out or being cut short by monologue interludes — and the script has a tendency to wander distractedly into self-indulgence: an impromptu song-and-dance number to the Green Acres theme, for example.
Thankfully, director Mark Finley has recruited a strong cast who — for the most part — blithely prance over some of the script’s pitfalls. Most notable is Dietrich, who deftly portrays Kyle like a stoned Paul Lynde. And while Pig Tale still manages to satisfy as camp bonbon, by cutting out some of the script’s, er, pork, this little piggy could really go to market. — Paul Menard, Back Stage
Actor wins role by a nose.
(Urban Stages Interview)
When playwright Chris Weikel saw actor Jesse May transform himself into a swine for a preliminary staged reading of his new comedy Pig Tale (now being presented by TOSOS at Wings Theater), he knew he wouldn’t have to look any further to cast the role. “I hadn’t even finished the play and he was already a shoo-in for the part. His physicalization and his squealing were incredibly expressive. This is the only instance I’m aware of where the swine was cast before the pearl.” United Stages wanted to know…
US: Jesse May, what in your acting career or personal life has prepared you to play a man who turns into a pig?
JM: A lack of ego, probably. I look in the mirror each morning and wonder, “Oh no, what the hell is this?” Piggishness never seems far afield: in thought, word or deed. Even so, the prospect of spending four-hour rehearsals on one’s hands and knees, squealing, gave me pause…but then I thought about all the stuff I’ve done prior, in which the Thing, the role, was all about physical transformation. Period pieces, for instance. For me, roles like this are all about caging an impulse within your body and holding it within a framework. This time the framework is a pig, I guess. I love that kind of stuff.
US: As an actor you probably research your roles thoroughly. To your knowledge how many sounds are their in the pig vocabulary for the word “corn”?
JM: “Corn” is such a funny word. There’s that apocryphal “Corn? I don’t remember eating corn!” anecdote that I probably oughtn’t repeat. But pigs never really ate much corn, historically; I mean, because my girlfriend works with all kinds of farmers, I know that pigs which eat corn, solely, taste horrible and are less healthy than are pigs allowed to forage and do what they naturally do. Pigs then, probably have very few sounds for “corn,” but hundreds of sounds for “slop,” like Eskimos and “snow,” you know? This is verging on the pedantic, but pigs are used to hunting out truffles, right? Which means, genetically, they’ve been built from the ground up to root out some tasty, tasty stuff. Do you think they really spent all that time looking for corn? Yeah: each day I’m torn between eating fallen apples, truffles and morels…or CORN.
US: From your character’s point of view, what is Pig Tale about?
JM: You try and tell someone you love them, right? But the impulse, in words, comes out all perverted and wrong and you just freak the other person out. That’s my experience—and I think my character’s, as well. So I guess it’s this journey in which two people find an emotional equilibrium, a Rosetta’s stone for everything they feel.
US: Other than this role, what’s the most unusual character you’ve ever played?
JM: This great playwright friend of mine, Ed Valentine, wrote this part where I got to play the Raven—you know, Edgar Allen Poe and all—and play it in a feathered tuxedo jacket and thong. In the play, the Raven was Poe’s muse, encouraging him to sell his soul and his child bride’s life in order to write The Poem, you know? So I got to do all this cool bird mannerism work. Plus a little bit of sexy, Mick Jagger-esque “sell your soul to the devil-rockstar” business.
US: Transformation and reinvention seem to be a big part of the American Dream and our national character. If the sky were the limit, and you wanted a break from your acting career, how would you transform or reinvent yourself.
JM: I think I’d like to be a really intelligent professor. The idea of finding craft, art and metaphor in a science, for me, seems very appealing. There’s that story about the guy who discovered the structure of the benzine ring. After years of reasearch, I guess, he had a dream about a snake eating its tail, which is the essential structure of benzine, and one of his students said, “what a lucky break: have a dream and discover an important molecule,” and he said, “Inspiration comes to the prepared spirit.” Which is to say, he thought about it for years before his thoughts coalesced around the truth. I’d like to be a scientist and have my thoughts organized differently than they are.
US: What do you most like about working with TOSOS?
JM: The people. It seems like a community of theater types who’ve coalesced around a common purpose, a generating spirit, and when you’re around them you just get it all. And once you innately get the goal, the horizon, you can just focus on the business of getting there: the acting and staging and whatnot. Doric (Wilson) and Mark (Finley) and Chris, they’re all so cool about just working toward the particular horizon of this project. I’ve worked with other ancillary figures from TOSOS and playwrights like Chris who’ve come out of Tina Howe’s program, for instance, and they’re all so grounded in the work. No egos. And smart. They’re not amateurs.
US: In Pigspeak: why should people come to Pig Tale?
JM: Chris Weikel wrote my squeals out in the script like this, which I think should suffice for an answer: “OOOOUUUIIIIIEEEEE!” Evocative, no?
US: That certainly is. We’ll see you at the show.